Truth in the Text Part II – How Long is a Day?

…and there was evening and there was morning – the first day. (Gen 1:5)

Thy Word is true from the beginning… (Psalms 119:60)

If you read the book of Genesis for the first time, without any bias, you would understand the word ‘day’ to mean a 24 hour time period. There is no indication from the text that the word means a long geologic age or is symbolic in any way. We saw from Part I that ‘day’ is interpreted as times spanning millions of years. Is there a foundation for this?

Let’s take a closer look at the word ‘day’.

The Hebrew (original language of the Old Testament) word for ‘day’ in Genesis Chapter 1 is yowm or yom. It is used over 1400 times in the Old Testament and has several meanings that seem to be generally accepted:

a. the period of daylight as opposed to night
b. a 24 hour time period (the most common use of yom)
c. a period of time of unspecified duration
d. a specific point in time
e. a year

With these meanings alone, it’s easy to see why there is room for various interpretations on the length of the six ‘days’ of creation. A Google search on this topic takes you deeper into the specifics of the word use and in my opinion does nothing to say with all certainty that Genesis 1 can only refer to literal days. I found reasoning on both sides. There are Hebrew/Christian scholars who insist the word can only mean a 24 hour day and those who insist the meaning is not so simply defined. (Please understand this was an internet search and I can’t vouch for the validity of any information. I did search many sites to find the common threads.)

The word origin search did not steer me one way or the other. However, I am convinced that the meaning of yom in Genesis Chapter I is literal for these reasons:

1. I don’t believe the words of Genesis were meant to be confusing. The book wasn’t written as poetry or allegory, but one of fact/law. Its purpose is to communicate. The author goes to repeated lengths to define the word ‘day.’ Six times it says, “And there was evening and there was morning – the (first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth) day.” If Moses meant that the days of creation were extended periods of time, I think he would have said so.

2. In Exodus 31:12-17 God is talking to Moses, establishing the seven day week. He based six days of work and the Sabbath Day rest on His 7 day pattern of creation. It makes no sense to me that He would base the week on 7 long periods of indefinite time. I believe God took a week to create when He could have spoken the world into existence in one breath. There was a 7 day pattern being established.

3. The idea of long geologic ages gained favor with the theories of evolution and the need to explain the age of the earth. Jewish scholars and Christian theologians didn’t question God’s straight-forward words until man told him he was ignorant. I choose to trust God’s authority on the matter over man’s theories.

(Do the rocks tell us the age of our planet? Next time…)

What about 2 Peter 3:8?

“With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”

This verse is used to support the idea of days being something other than 24 hours to God. Read in context, this verse is about the Second Coming of Jesus, not creation. It is saying that God is not limited by time parameters the way we are. If forced to apply this verse to creation, it equally supports a young earth and an old one.

One more point for consideration:

Long periods of evolutionary progression put death and suffering prior to Adam. God called his original creation ‘good’ and there was no death. Adam and Eve’s rebellion changed that (Romans 5:12), bringing the curse of death and suffering to all of creation.

The BIG picture of salvation gets muddied with evolutionary concepts. The essence of the Gospel is this:

Jesus: Sinless, Sinful – On the cross with all of our sin placed on Him, Sinless

Man:  Sinless at creation and for a period of time in Eden,   Sinful – all of us since Adam’s rebellion,   Sinless – forever (if we believe in the redemptive work on the cross)

Wow. Lots to ponder.

Thanks for spending this time with me. We’ll look at what the rocks have to say next time.


“In the last days men will deliberately forget that God created the world.”  (2 Peter 3:5)


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Posted April 12, 2012 by Rachel in category "Genesis

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